Lessons from Sukkot: Trust in G-d and Reach Out to the Poor

Sukkot is a festival (lasting 7 days in Israel; 8 days outside Israel) commemorating the temporary structures (sukkot--plural of sukkah) used by the Jewish people while they wandered in the desert for 40 years after they left Egypt. (This year it began on Sept. 27.) During the holiday, Jews are required to build temporary structures and to dwell in them (but most people just eat meals there). The sukkah symbolizes G-d’s kindness in providing for the Jews when they were without permanent home and shelter. (Adapted from Wikipedia and abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/chaplain/calendar/glossary.html)

“The mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah teaches us trust in God. We tend to think that our possessions, our money, our homes, our intelligence will protect us. During Sukkot we are exposed to the elements in a temporary hut. Living in a Sukkah puts life into perspective. Our possessions are transient - and our corporeal beings are even more transient than our possessions. Life is vulnerable.” (http://www.aish.com/torahportion/shalomweekly/Yom_Kippur_5765.asp)

“During the holiday, Jews invite seven spiritual "guests" (known as ushpizzin in Aramaic) to be with them in the sukkah. These ushpizzin are the seven ‘shepherds’ of Israel.” They are: Avraham Avinu, Yitzchak Avinu, Yaakov Avinu, Moshe Rabenu, Aaron haKohen, Yoseph haTzaddik, and David Hamelech. (adapted from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot)

“Each of the seven Ushpizzin correspond to a fundamental spiritual pathway (sefirah) through which the world is metaphysically nourished and perfected.

  • Avraham Avinu represents love and kindness
  • Yitzchak Avinu represents restraint and personal strength
  • Yaakov Avinu represents beauty and truth
  • Moshe Rabenu represents eternality and dominance through Torah
  • Aaron HaKohen represents empathy and receptivity to divine splendor
  • Yoseph HaTzaddik represents holiness and the spiritual foundation
  • David HaMelech represents the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth” (http://dreamingofmoshiach.blogspot.com/2007/09/succot.html)

“It’s not enough to mystically invite these ‘guests’ to our sukkahs. They need to be physically represented, and if they are represented, who will be their representatives? The Zohar says they are to be represented by those most in need, otherwise the heavenly hosts will curse our table.”